Addendum to my recent ‘Venn diagram’ post

After publishing My ‘Snowden – Seddon’ Venn diagram post on this blog, a reader decided to share it via LinkedIn (which I appreciate – many thanks Sam).

I (usually) choose not to ‘push’ my material onto social media – I’m not trying to sell something (I don’t derive income from it) or gain any ‘influencer’ status.

However, if someone ‘pulls’ it to themselves and for others (e.g. by reposting etc.) then this gives me useful feedback that they see some utility within (even if it is just to prompt a level of reflection).

The loading of the blog post link onto LinkedIn prompted one of the subjects, Dave Snowden, to provide a response. In the interests of transparency (i.e. if you have, or go on to, read the post) I think it’s useful for you to know what Dave wrote, and my thoughts on this:

Dave’s comment on LinkedIn (with me splitting it into – what I see as – the four distinct points within):

“[1] You only have 2 of the 5 (9 if you include liminal) Cynefin domains & [2] even then they do not equate to a split between manufacturing & service. [3] CAS of which Cynefin is a part would reject the whole idea of archetypes. [4] Your descriptions seem designed to support your thesis 🙂 “

My reply:

“Hello Dave, thanks for providing some thoughts on my recent blog post. Rather than attempting to add my thoughts within a small LinkedIn reply box, I’ve chosen to add an addendum to my post that a) makes your comment transparent to any readers and b) provides some thoughts in reply. Regards, Steve”

My thoughts on Dave’s four points:

1. Yes, I am aware that I am only referencing a small part of the Cynefin sense-making framework, hence me writing in the post (emphasis added): “it very usefully differentiates (amongst many other things) between ordered and complex domains”; and me providing a reference in the footnotes to where readers can find out more about Cynefin; and me noting that there is a Cynefin wiki…which I’m happy to link to here.

For the avoidance of doubt: I find the full (and regularly maturing) Cynefin framework interesting. However, it was a particular aspect of it that was the focus of my reflection in my post.

2. Yes, I realise that (emphasis added) “they [Complex vs. Ordered] do not equate to a split between manufacturing and service”, which is why I wrote what I did, how I did, under the subheading title of ‘Making sense of the problem space’ (i.e. the intersect). I am not attempting to argue that anything is ‘the same’ within the post. I am setting out ‘the bones’ of useful linkages (as I currently see them). My last sentence was deliberate in writing (emphasis added) “I see people-centred as being the closest intersection with Snowden’s complex problem space.”

Note: If anyone wanted to understand what I was meaning by the phrase ‘people-centred’ then I provided a link to go to within the post.

3. Archetypes: I’m not sure what Dave is saying is being rejected within CAS (by which I think CAS is short for Complex Adaptive Systems)

  • the basic definition of an archetype? (“a typical example of something, or the original model from which others are copied” – Cambridge Dictionary); or
  • how the word has been used in, say, the school of System Dynamics?

For clarity: Seddon’s use of the word ‘archetype’ within his writings (as I understand it) does not equate to its usage by the likes of, say, Peter Senge within System Dynamics.

For example: the archetype of what Seddon refers to as a ‘break – fix’ service may be seen in many different settings (ref. an IT support desk, a social housing repairs service, an insurance claims process…)

4. Yes, I agree that my thinking cannot help but be shaped by my experiences to date, and so (like all of us) is biased accordingly. I’m not attempting to put forward some new theory. I’m choosing to use the medium of ‘writing it down’ to cause me to think and of ‘sharing it’ (via a personal blog) to cause me to think more carefully.

Regarding my bias: I don’t consider myself to be a ‘Seddonista’ or a ‘Snowdenite’ (no disrespect meant by using these terms), although I enjoy exploring, and considering if/how I can usefully apply both of their bodies of work (amongst many others).

In addition:

I also noted a number of comments from others in the related LinkedIn thread(s) making essentially the same point: that I had chosen to use the phrase ‘systems theory’ (in my Venn diagram and in my point 9 intersect), when I should probably have written ‘systems theories’. I’m more than happy with this suggested improvement.

Anyone reading Mike Jackson’s book (as referenced in footnote 4 of the post) would appreciate why the point is a good one.

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